Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review May 2, 2002 / 20 Iyar 5762

Bill Tammeus

Bill Tammeus
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Exporting our exclusivity | If, in this time of global misunderstanding, disinformation and cultural clashes, you could teach people in other countries about the values America holds dear, which ones would you choose?

I can think of several: Political, religious and economic freedom would be high on my list, though I might make even those crucial liberties subservient to the idea of the ultimate value of each human life.

That ideal not only upholds the dignity of every individual, it also reminds us how we are called to live - as neighbors, as people who care about one another. It carries with it an acknowledgment that we are dependent on one another to achieve the full benefits of community.

Sometimes Americans express their most cherished values in creative and helpful ways. Our Peace Corps workers, for instance, embody them.

Our students studying abroad often represent them well. Our government's own ambassadors and other employees officially stand for such values. In many cases, even our military calls attention to those values because it is asked to defend them.

But sometimes the very freedoms we relish allow - and even encourage - the export of some of the less-useful values our American culture expresses.

Yes, TV and movies often are guilty here, but I have something else in mind.

Consider Orange County, China. The very California-ish name is a tip-off that someone is trying to compare oranges and tea leaves. Orange County, China, which mimicks suburban Los Angeles, is a gated community now being built an hour's drive from Beijing.

A recent Los Angeles Times account describes how the Chinese developer of this property is working with California architects and designers to create "a whole environment ... in the American style," as one of the developer's representatives put it. In a country of well over 1 billion people - many of whom live on subsistence wages under the direction of a centrally planned economy - Orange County, China, will offer $250,000 town homes and million-dollar luxury estates, complete with a lake and shopping and community centers.

The model homes now on display there look as if they were uprooted from a wealthy American suburb and plopped down on the ancient land where the arts, trade and scholarship once flourished under the Ming Dynasty.

Not only are these homes of American design, but the construction materials and even the furniture all are imported from this country.

A young man quoted in the Times story says quite plainly that the advantage of the house he now owns in Orange County, China, is that it separates him from the lower classes of humanity. He is insulated there from the madding crowds. Inside his gated community, he is secure in the knowledge that the hoi polloi won't keep him up at night, forcing him to listen to their growling stomachs and their moaning in restless nightmares about being unable to support their families.

I want to be clear about what is wrong with this. It's not that wealth is bad or that there is an uneven distribution of it - though that, too, raises issues of equity. But wealth always is irregularly spread around in any society, even those that - understanding how disheartening that can be - seek to make the rules fair.

And it's not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with American architecture or home construction.

Nor is it that cross-cultural experiences can't be enriching and shouldn't be encouraged. Usually, I would say, the more we can experience other cultures, the better off we'll all be.

No, what is wrong here is that we seem to have exported one of our worst traits. We have exported exclusivity and separation. We have offered to an ancient and honorable people the bogus idea that we can live cocooned in creature comforts that dull in us any sense of either responsibility to or connection with others.

Some people in other cultures and times - particularly in countries with traditions of monarchy - have held up separation and disconnection as useful standards. But no one has done this with more arrogant assurance (often bowing to the god of security) than America's gated suburban communities.

Our sometimes spectacular failure to live in harmony with one another is not what we should export to others.

JWR contributor Bill Tammeus' latest book is "A Gift of Meaning." To order it, please click on title. To comment on his column, please click here.

04/25/02: Life's stories carry messages about values
04/19/02: Our life force's search for fellow life forces
03/27/02: Can corporations behave ethically?
03/19/02: Space Family Robinsons
02/21/02: Lock, stocks and bonds
02/14/02: In space, the dark matters
02/07/02: Train doctors to have caring hands and hearts
01/31/02: A different feel to my life and to my country?
01/24/02: How green is my universe?
01/17/02: The end is near, eventually
01/08/02: Important lessons arrive out of the past
12/19/01: Lost in the cloning debate
12/10/01: It's all in the name: Unraveling the mystery of Osama's whereabouts
11/19/01: Flying with damaged trust
11/02/01: Recent, recognized research is a hard nut to crack
10/31/01: Many paradoxes in life
10/25/01: Newly found planets show the cosmos is still strange
10/19/01: Just getting caught up
10/17/01: It was a time for tea and sympathy
10/08/01: What makes an authentic patriot?
10/04/01: It's OK to twist and shout
09/17/01: One precious life among many
09/13/01: Remember who we are
09/11/01: Sometimes all children need is shelter from the storm
09/05/01: Couldn't run or throw, but a hero just the same
08/28/01: Lesson for the scientific faithful: Some theories come with strings attached
08/27/01: When waste in space is a waste of space
08/21/01: In complex world, we lack tools to carve out understanding
08/09/01: Visited while asleep by gang of magical mischief makers
08/03/01: Recognizing the limits of one's capacity
07/27/01: We are more than the sum of our work days
07/12/01: Some stars, like some people, never shine
07/11/01: Our deeply embedded need for order
07/03/01: Not-so-famous tour explores not-so-rich neighborhoods
06/28/01: Driven to tell the truth about golf and government
06/25/01: When poetry becomes destructive
06/21/01: We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a word from deep space
06/14/01: Theory of revolution explains why some things get lost
06/11/01: Shamanic gewgaws
06/06/01: Charity begins at homes with lemonade stands
05/30/01: When are wars worth dying in?
05/23/01: Cruising along that bumpy highway
05/09/01: If you're in the write mood, wish the U.S. happy birthday
05/07/01: Killing McVeigh will wound us all
05/01/01: Dubya reinforcing negative GOP stereotypes?


Reprinted by permission, The Kansas City Star, Copyright 2002. All rights reserved